I've been thinking of setting up a company to set people up with Open Source workplaces, and every year that goes past makes me think that the time is almost here.
There are a number of factors which are conspiring to make Linux a viable alternative:
- The fact that Linux, via distributions such as Ubuntu, Mandriva, Suse et al, are now easy enough to install and intuitive enough for the Everyday User. I set my girlfriend up with an account on a spare laptop and just let her play. Soon enough she was asking for it on her laptop as well.
- OpenOffice. Enough said. Hardly anyone uses the full feature set of Word, so why do we slavishly upgrade every time a new version comes out? Well actually we don't …
- The nightmare of Vista. Hardware incompatibilities galore, a confusing new interface with more eyecandy than improved usability, increased hardware requirements. The security enhancements which, ahem, aren't really all that more secure, are they?
- Open source = no license fees. Can't argue with that.
- Reduced downtime due to viruses.
All of these are great reasons, as well as the more emotive reasons for doing it. (Hate Microsoft!; Can't afford a Mac! Irritated with bloatware!). However while Linux is great for me, I still spend more time fixing it than most people are prepared to spend.
Take last week for example. A standard Update to my OS suddenly starts installing a different kernel – it decided all of a sudden that I'd like a laptop kernel. This would have been alright in itself, but then suddenly
- my display driver doesn't work. I install it again.
- My microphone stops working in Skype. I try for a few hours to get it going again, but can't. I use my spare laptop to do Skype calls.
- My VMware server doesn't work. I try to re-compile it, but in the end can't get it to work,
So I roll back, eventually to the desktop kernel. I reinstall the display driver. I manage to get VMware back up. The Skype Mic problem is still with me.
I've still no idea why I was given a different kernel. I'm experienced enough after 4 years with Linux to get it back working again, but that really shouldn't have happened in the first place. And its things like that which I think is hampering the progress of Linux.